Crimes committed by pharmacists may be increasing, claims an article published in Fairfax media
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald quotes director of NSW Health’s Pharmaceutical Regulatory Unit, Bruce Battye, who told reporter Michael Evans that “the levels of inappropriate dispensing by pharmacists or illegal dispensing we detect appears to have escalated a bit over the years”.
The article, “When chemists go bad: wave of drug store dealers caught pill pushing,” begins by outlining the case of Ethan Le, who was convicted in 2015 of several offences including supplying drugs such as Clonazepam, testosterone and morphine contrary to the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act, and then failed to notify the Pharmacy Board.
Mr Le’s case is the “latest in a string of incidents” in which “suburban pharmacists” have been reprimanded or convicted of similar offences, the Herald article says.
“The revelations are at odds with community perceptions of pharmacists who rate as the third most trusted profession in Australia, ranked only behind doctors and nurses,” the article states.
It says that authorities are “troubled” by private prescribing and dispensing of restricted drugs outside the PBS, which it suggests makes these activities difficult to monitor.
“Stolen or lost prescription pads have been bought and used by rogue chemists,” Mr Evans writes.
Mr Battye told the Herald that the suggested increase in criminal activity by pharmacists was likely due to “the increase in trafficking in these drugs in the community where prescription opioids have now overtaken heroin as a drug of abuse”.
Pharmacists are under financial pressure, Mr Battye said, and “some succumb to that pressure”.
However he also pointed out that there are “many thousands” of honest pharmacists around the country.
The Herald also spoke to NSW Drug and Firearm Squad Commander Peter McErlain, who said that “often these pharmacists pop up in other drug jobs that we’re doing and while we’re not investigating them per se they do pop up in other illicit drug investigations”.
Mr McErlain also pointed out that the majority of pharmacists do not commit such crimes.
The Herald highlighted a number of other recent cases involving pharmacists, including that of Anthony Sadek, who was found to have engaged in unsatisfactory professional conduct over opioids supply; Phillip Slater, who was found to have a “pharmacy in his car” when police raided his home; and James Fearon, who supplied himself and several friends and associates with a number of drugs, mostly restricted or drugs of addiction.
Mr Battye also said that the Unit had been taking down “low-hanging fruit,” and that it did not “kid ourselves that we’ve got everyone”.